Point Reyes Hiking

A vast network of trails to choose from, year-round accessibility, close proximity to San Francisco, beautiful scenery, and fresh air combine to make Point Reyes National Seashore and surrounding environs an ideal destination for nature lovers. Point Reyes is nationally recognized as a top hiking destination. The American Hiking Society, the national voice for hikers, named Point Reyes one of the top ten most family-friendly hiking spots in the country.

Whether you are a veteran hiking enthusiast in search of a challenging adventure or a family with kids eager to enjoy the outdoors, Point Reyes has a trail for you!

Point Reyes Lodging innkeepers have combined their collective years of knowledge and experience in the area and created a “Top 10” list of their favorite hikes. 

Hiking Essentials

Point Reyes National Seashore has over 150 miles of hiking trails to explore and trail maps are available at the Bear Valley Visitor Center. There are many ways to customize your hike to accommodate your physical and time limitations. Stop by the Bear Valley Visitor Center for current trail information and suggested hikes.

To keep your adventure safe and enjoyable, and to protect park resources, please observe the following:

Observe trails: Stay on trails to prevent erosion as well as to avoid poison oak, stinging nettles and ticks. Do not shortcut on switchbacks. Please do not enter closed areas. They are closed for your safety and resource protection.

Caution along cliffs: Stay away from cliff edges. Loose soil can give way suddenly and you may fall. Do not climb cliffs.

Clothing: Dress appropriately. Wear layered clothing and be prepared for changing conditions.

Food & water: Always carry food and water for longer hikes. Dehydration is a common cause of exhaustion, fatigue and headaches.

Water safety: The protozoan Giardia lamblia may be present in natural sources of water and can cause severe illness. Do not drink water from streams and all other natural sources without treating. Water may be treated by boiling, filtering, or using iodine or other chemical water purifiers. Potable drinking water is available at visitor centers and in campgrounds. The exception is Wildcat Campground, where water needs to be treated before drinking.

Top 10 Hikes

1. ARCH ROCK VIA BEAR VALLEY. A popular trail in Point Reyes National Seashore, it is the most direct route to the ocean from the Bear Valley Visitor Center and an excellent trail for beginners and children. The trail is sheltered from sun, wind and coastal fog as it meanders through mixed Douglas fir forest and along Bear Valley Creek. Arch Rock is an overlook point. (Distance – 8.2 miles; Time – 4 hours; Level of Difficulty – Moderate)

2. TOMALES POINT TRAIL. Open trail through the Tule Elk Range offers spectacular views of Tomales Bay, Bodega Bay, and the Pacific Ocean. It is also a prime wildlife viewing trail. Fog and wind can limit visibility and make this hike more challenging. Trailhead is at the end of Pierce Point Road, about 40 minutes driving time from Bear Valley. (Distance – 9.5 miles; Time – 4 to 5 hours; Level of Difficulty – Moderate)

3. SKY – BEAR VALLEY LOOP. A varied hike that features mixed Douglas fir forest, open grassland, coastal views, and beach access. Climb Mt. Wittenberg Trail (1350′ elevation gain in l.4 miles) and then continue out Sky Trail to Coast Trail. Continue south on Coast Trail to Arch Rock. Enjoy your last coastal view here, before returning via Bear Valley Trail, through beautiful buckeyes and mixed Douglas fir forest and along Coast Creek. (Distance – 10.5 miles; Time – 5 hours; Level of Difficulty – Moderate/Strenuous)

4. COAST – LAGUNA LOOP. An easy walk through coastal scrub and grassland offers breathtaking ocean views. Begin on Laguna Trail, a slight climb, then descend to Coast Camp on Fir Lane Trail (turn left on Coast Trail for beach access at Coast Camp). Complete the loop by following Coast Trail northwest, a flat, open stretch of trail along coastal bluffs and then through a riparian zone, and back to the Youth Hostel. (Distance – 5 miles; Time – 2 to 3 hours; Level of Difficulty – Easy)

5. MT. WITTENBERG AND SKY CAMP FROM LIMANTOUR ROAD. This route provides an easy access to the highest point on the Point Reyes Peninsula, with a 750-foot elevation gain. Climb Sky Trail, with views of the ocean, and continue through meadows and woods to Horse Trail. Follow Horse Trail to Z Ranch Trail, which brings you to the trail to the summit of Mt. Wittenberg. Views from the summit are limited due to thick regrowth of trees after the Mt. Vision Fire in l995. Continue to the junction of Sky and Meadow Trails, and then back through Sky Camp. Begin with l0 minute drive from Bear Valley Visitor Center, at Sky Trailhead on Limantour Road. (Distance – 4.3 miles; Time – 3 hours; Level of Difficulty – Moderate)

6. BOLINAS RIDGE TRAIL. The best trail with views of Olema Valley, especially on a sunny day or a night with a full moon. Enjoy the expansive feeling of this open space. If you choose to continue beyond the first few miles, you will enter a redwood forest and eventually chaparral. Trail begins after a 5 minute drive from the Bear Valley Visitor Center, above Olema on Sir Francis Drake Highway. (Distance – 2 to 22 miles; Time – 1 to 4 hours; Level of Difficulty – Moderate)

7. ABBOTTS LAGOON. The Abbotts Lagoon Trail, an easy stroll through open grasslands and coastal scrub, features a colorful display of spring wildflowers and excellent bird watching, especially in fall and winter. Continue on to the Great Beach, an additional .5 miles, before returning via the same trail. The trek begins with a 25 minute drive from the Bear Valley Visitor Center. Take Bear Valley Road, left from the visitor center, turn left on Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, and then right at Pierce Point Road. Abbotts Lagoon Trailhead is clearly marked on the left. (Distance – 3 miles; Time – 2 to 3 hours; Level of Difficulty – Easy)

8. MT. WITTENBERG LOOP. The loop features a steep l,300-foot climb to the highest point in the park (l,407-feet), with panoramic views of the seashore and Olema Valley. The loop passes through mixed Douglas fir, oak forest and several open meadows. Climb Mt. Wittenberg Trail all the way to the top, then return to Bear Valley via Z Ranch and Horse Trails, or via Meadow Trail. The Mt. Wittenberg Loop begins 0.2 mi. up the Bear Valley Trail, from the end of Bear Valley parking Lot. (Distance – 5 miles; Time – 2 to 3 hours; Level of difficulty – Strenuous)

9. CHIMNEY ROCK TRAIL. A spectacular hike with views of Drakes Bay and the Pacific Ocean. Great for spring wildflowers. Rocky cliffs drop off steeply to the water and there is no beach access. From December through April, look for migrating gray whales from the point, and elephant seals from a spur trail and lookout point near the parking lot. Fog and winds can make this hike challenging. For tide pooling, at a minus low tide, walk down the paved road to the right past the parking lot, past the Life Boat Station, and continue along the rocky beach. Tide pools are inaccessible from December through April, while elephant seals are in the area. Trail begins at the Chimney Rock Trailhead, near the Lighthouse, a 40 minute drive from the Bear Valley Visitor Center. (Distance – 1.6 miles; Time – 1 hour; Level of Difficulty – Moderate)

10. LIMANTOUR SPIT – BEACH TRAIL. This hike provides spectacular views and lots of birds. Start at Limantour parking area and head down toward the ocean. Just after passing the marsh area, turn right and head north along the trail in the dunes. Look for egrets, herons, willets, and plovers especially in the winter. At the end of the road head across the dunes to the beach, then to left again. Option: To add to the hike, continue northwest l.8 miles to the end of the spit, where you will find colonies of harbor seal. Return via the same trail or along the beach. (Distance 2 – 4 miles; Time – 2 – 3 hours; Level – Moderate)

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